On day five, we had booked a glacier hike on Vatnajokull, the largest glacier in Iceland. It spans 8300 square km of Iceland. Which is almost 9 times bigger than the second largest glacier in Iceland. We went with a tour guides called Glacier guides. We arrived just at 8:30 am, where they already were loaded up on the bus and rushing us. Be on time! Quickly, we got geared up and jumped on the bus.
Peter, our guide, walked us to the glacier and taught us how to put on crampons on. These are spikey hiking boot protectors that dig into the ice so you don’t slip. Make sure to wear hiking boots that wrap around your ankles for protection. For the next 8 hours we hiked up and down the glacier, looking at crevices and deep holes that the melting ice created. We hiked almost to the top, because the ‘waterfall’ of ice was too dangerous to stand on. At any moment it could melt through and we’d find ourselves inside the glacier. I fell twice. I am clumsy and embarrassing. I have two big bruises and a bruised pride. All jokes aside, I knew I would fall so I wasn’t so hurt but make sure not to wear big pants like I did because the crampons caught onto my pants and ripped them, causing me to fall.
We were lucky to see double rainbows all day. Fearing that it was going to be rainy and windy, like the night before, we layered up. I had two fleece jackets, the outer shell of my ski jacket, my thermal top, huge rain pants, thermal underwear, and a pair of sweatpants on. I was sweating at one point, but I knew I could just take a layer off.
The hike wasn’t very hard. The guide made sure that we were ok after a small bit of a steep hike. The other guides that aren’t guiding the tours, were making ‘stairs’ for us so that it wasn’t so steep. It seemed like hard work but these Viking-like men seemed to have been enjoying it. This hike cost about $280 CAD.
We had gotten the grand slam combo, so after we had finished our hike, we headed straight to the lagoon where we jumped onto a boat ride. We were all pretty tired so we hadn’t asked many questions (I felt bad for our guide, who was super enthusiastic but we weren’t reciprocating). It was getting cold, windy, and rainy again but they placed in big floatation parkas and life vests. On the boat, we rode out to see large ice bergs that were broken off from the glacier. Because it had rained the night before, all the icebergs were far from each other and I couldn’t get a great picture, but what was cool was to see the wall of the glacier. It reminded me of Game of Thrones’ ‘the North Wall’. Our tour guide also picked up a piece of ice for us to eat… and see. It was so clear, it was said to be cleanest water in the world. You could also see that the ice bergs were so blue. This was because the rain had melted the outside white layers of the iceberg. The insides, being so compressed over the years, only emitted the blue colour because it is very hard for our eyes to see red… so that’s why we only see blue. This is the same theory for why we see blue water in the sea.
On the tour, she also mentioned that if the attached volcano were to erupt, the glacier would melt quickly and flood our area. It would only give us 10 minutes to evacuate. It made us all nervously laugh. Thank goodness nothing erupted. Probably quite upset that she got such a blah group of people, we headed back onto land. We headed towards our next destination: Stracta Hotel near Hella.
We chose Stracta Hotel because it was in the country and it was our back up for if we didn’t see the Northern Lights the night before. It also had a sauna and a hot tub outside. We had dinner at the hotel which was mediocre. I had the langoustine (lobster tail) soup that was super salty and the salmon with mashed potatoes. The service wasn’t so great but the overall experience was decent. We popped into the sauna right after dinner but lost one of our friends to the Northern Lights. He had taken his camera and was shooting it. As we sat outside in the hot tub (which was freaking amazing!!) we saw faint white glimmers of the Northern Lights. Our friend showed us afterwards that on his camera, with exposure, he could clearly see the green and the purple. It was beautiful. I was sad I wasn’t able to capture it.